The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department will host three meetings next week to discuss possible improvements to Interstate 40 between Conway and North Little Rock.

According to Highway and Transportation Department spokesperson Glenn Bolick, traffic issues in the area spurred the need for a study and eventual improvements to I-40.

The first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 3 at the Conway Parks and Recreation Department. The second meeting will be held Aug. 4 at Mayflower High School, and the third is set for Aug. 5 at Cedar Heights Baptist Church in Morgan. All three come-and-go meetings will be held from 4-7 p.m.

Bolick said the meetings give residents the opportunity to offer state officials any suggestions or ideas they may have for improvements to the interstate and surrounding highways.

“There will be representatives from the Highway and Transportation Department there to talk to residents,” Bolick said. “People can come in and say whatever they want and be a part of this process.”

Bolick said the department will listen to any ideas and suggestions the public may have.

“We’ll consider everything that should be considered,” Bolick said. “If someone wants us to paint all the bridges red, we’ll consider it.”
Bolick said the improvements to I-40 are still in the infancy stages.

“This is the initial phase of the process,” Bolick said. “The highway commission has approved the highway department to conduct a study of the I-40 corridor from Pulaski County to Faulkner County. In simple terms, the traffic in the area exceeds what’s there. Something needs to be done.”

There are several steps the highway department must take before construction begins, Bolick said.

The department will meet with the public before making any type of plans. Bolick said they will take six to nine months to evaluate the information and construct designs before meeting with residents once again for more feedback. Bolick hopes the highway department will be able to return to the area in spring of 2011 to show residents a proposal for any improvements.

“Adding lanes is at the top of everyone’s list,” Bolick said. “Sometimes just adding lanes doesn’t solve everything.”

Although construction is far from beginning, Bolick said there is money available to start the study and initial work.

“There’s no preliminary figure of what it would cost, because there’s no preliminary solution,” Bolick said. “It’s premature to put a dollar amount or time frame on anything.”

According to Bolick, the Interstate 40 corridor from North Little Rock to Conway sees anywhere from 31,000 to 75,000 vehicles per day. Heavier traffic can be found east of the I-430 exchange, while traffic tends to lessen west of Conway.

(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at stephanie.fischer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)